How Prince of Persia Defeated Apple II's Memory Limitations | War Stories | Ars Technica

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Buttermancan
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How Prince of Persia Defeated Apple II's Memory Limitations | War Stories | Ars Technica

Postby Buttermancan » July 8th, 2020, 5:22 am

I've always been a fan of the original Prince of Persia game. After reviewing it in the readers review section I went down a rabbit hole finding out more about the game. In this hole I found an interview of Jordan Mechnar (game creator) by Ars Technica.
It's a very interesting insight into his design process and the memory limitations he needed to overcome.

This is the video description in Ars Technica's own words.

"Ars Technica sat down with Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner to learn about the challenges he faced while bringing his ambitious vision for the game to life. As the 1980's wound down, Mechner found himself fighting against not only the limitations of the Apple II hardware but the impending death of the platform itself. Decades later, Prince of Persia remains a classic example of how the constraints of early gaming led to solutions that advanced the artform."

Here's the link to the video https://youtu.be/sw0VfmXKq54

Ars Technica have other interesting interviews with creators of games such as NBA Jam, Crash Bandicoot, Alan Wake, Command & Conquer and Dead Space to name but a few.

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Re: How Prince of Persia Defeated Apple II's Memory Limitations | War Stories | Ars Technica

Postby goldenband » July 9th, 2020, 1:20 pm

I enjoyed this, thanks for posting! I almost didn't watch it because I thought it'd be one of those hour-long interview videos, which certainly have value but take a huge chunk of time. But this is a well-packed 20 minutes and has some thought-provoking moments and interesting technical details.

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Re: How Prince of Persia Defeated Apple II's Memory Limitations | War Stories | Ars Technica

Postby VideoGameCritic » July 9th, 2020, 6:58 pm

I agree this is a really fascinating documentary. I didn't realize the guy who did Prince of Persia also did Karateka. And apparently I've been pronouncing Karateka wrong (I put accent on first "ra").

I can definitely relate to what the guy was talking about programming wise. You had to do all sorts of tricks back then to conserve memory. I remember using the variation c0 all over the code which was equal to 0, because using an actual zero is less memory efficient than a variable.

I remember I wrote a fighting game where the loser of a fight falls off a bridge. Instead of creating a new character I reversed his shape so he was upside down. These are the kind of things you had to do when you didn't have infinite memory, and I think it made better programmers. And as the guy noted, we were all self-taught back then.

I even did some "rotoscoping" for a college project, although I didn't know it had a name back then.

I really feel the need to review Prince of Persia now. Anybody else think the more modern versions look less interesting that the original pixelated version?

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Re: How Prince of Persia Defeated Apple II's Memory Limitations | War Stories | Ars Technica

Postby BanjoPickles » July 9th, 2020, 7:53 pm

VideoGameCritic wrote:I agree this is a really fascinating documentary. I didn't realize the guy who did Prince of Persia also did Karateka. And apparently I've been pronouncing Karateka wrong (I put accent on first "ra").

I can definitely relate to what the guy was talking about programming wise. You had to do all sorts of tricks back then to conserve memory. I remember using the variation c0 all over the code which was equal to 0, because using an actual zero is less memory efficient than a variable.

I remember I wrote a fighting game where the loser of a fight falls off a bridge. Instead of creating a new character I reversed his shape so he was upside down. These are the kind of things you had to do when you didn't have infinite memory, and I think it made better programmers. And as the guy noted, we were all self-taught back then.

I even did some "rotoscoping" for a college project, although I didn't know it had a name back then.

I really feel the need to review Prince of Persia now. Anybody else think the more modern versions look less interesting that the original pixelated version?


Critic, you're killing me! I have been waiting for years for you to finally review what I consider to be the pinnacle of classic Prince of Persia! It was Konami's take on it, from 1992, that was released on SNES! It a beautiful game that has fun, well-designed levels, killer music, and happens to be one of my favorite games on the console. Securing a copy of the game shouldn't cost you much, and you won't regret it. It's probably the most fluid, well-designed of all of the PoP ports.

goldenband
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Re: How Prince of Persia Defeated Apple II's Memory Limitations | War Stories | Ars Technica

Postby goldenband » July 10th, 2020, 12:16 am

BanjoPickles wrote:Critic, you're killing me! I have been waiting for years for you to finally review what I consider to be the pinnacle of classic Prince of Persia! It was Konami's take on it, from 1992, that was released on SNES! It a beautiful game that has fun, well-designed levels, killer music, and happens to be one of my favorite games on the console. Securing a copy of the game shouldn't cost you much, and you won't regret it. It's probably the most fluid, well-designed of all of the PoP ports.

100% co-signed! The SNES version of Prince of Persia seems pretty darn definitive to me, though I know not everyone agrees. But the music, the graphics, the controls, everything is just so spot-on and atmospheric. I still find it totally compelling.

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Re: How Prince of Persia Defeated Apple II's Memory Limitations | War Stories | Ars Technica

Postby VicViper » July 10th, 2020, 4:11 am

VideoGameCritic wrote:I really feel the need to review Prince of Persia now. Anybody else think the more modern versions look less interesting that the original pixelated version?


There are two pretty thorough videos on twenty-one different versions of Prince of Persia that I recommend anyone interested about this game to check out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qrxk_VaSm6E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5E9MLSW5Iw

In case that's too much to watch (the first video he talks very fast for 32 mins, and the other one he talks slower for 49 mins), I'll say my piece on the versions I've played.

PC/DOS: The standard, and the one that I recommend the most as the classic experience. It's not the absolute best, but it's certainly way up there. I recommend starting here. The Amiga version is based on it and looks near identical though runs slower, same for Macintosh which has better graphics but runs rather sluggishly.

360/PS3 (Prince of Persia Classic): The "modern" version. It's honestly kinda busted, in the sense that the time limit doesn't have much meaning anymore since restarting a level after death resets the timer. It has a few added moves to make platforming a tad faster which is good, but it also makes the combat more complicated and changes the end battle against Jaffar. Your mileage may vary on those things. It's also unnecessarily heavily tutorialised and hints can pop up, although it can be turned off (thank God for that)
However, the biggest thing against this version of the game that I have, is that contrarily to every single over version of the game, the prince jumps IMMEDIATELY as you press the button, and the original level design wasn't built for the level of precision that the remaster requires of you, while in most old versions it's rather easy to get your marks if you have a vague idea of when to jump while running because of its leniency; it works on a grid and tend to snap you on the best jumping position when you're slightly off. The weight of the character is also completely gone, it definitely doesn't feel like the same character at all.
I can't really recommend this version before you've played another one, if you build muscle memory around the modern control scheme/platforming system, you will be even moreso extremely frustrated at the old versions, which sorta play more like OG Tomb Raider in 2D.

SNES: Technically it would be the best console version if it were the same game. Prince of Persia SNES is more of a complete overhaul with bits of familiar level design, and instead of 12 levels/60 minutes you have 20 levels/120 minutes. However despite that, it plays extremely well and the level design is pretty good, although it can be pretty darn tough. I recommend that one version if you've at least done one of the others.
There are a few very rare spots where I remember the clinging button not working though, in a game that punishes death with a complete retry of a level, that's the biggest slight against it (but like VERY RARE as in maybe two-three ledges in the whole game).

Addendum for SNES: Do NOT pick the sequel on SNES though (Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow & The Flame), it's a very rushed and flaming disaster port with glitches everywhere. In case you are morbidly curious, the 50hz version I actually recommend on the sequel because the game as a whole has the quirk of running EXTREMELY fast and the 50hz alleviates that (it also gives 15 more minutes on the timer).


Mega/Sega CD: You rated it an F, but ironically it's the best console version despite its presentation quirks (hilariously bad voice acting, rather misguided art style, and underwhelming graphics). It compensates largely with great controls, and a completely customisable speed meter for both platform & battle sections, in case the game runs too fast/slow for your liking.

Megadrive/Genesis: Absolutely terrible. The controls & responsiveness feel way worse than the original and most other versions, and that's a game where you already need to prepare a running jump two tiles away from the edge. The European version is the "best" version for having an additional 3 levels and actual music (although ear bleeding) that the American version completely lacks, it's also 50hz optimised so it would play bad/too fast on a 60hz Genesis.

NES: No. JUST. NO.
It makes the Megadrive version look like it plays like a dream by comparison. It's incredibly picky on what ledge you can go down/cling onto, and it's glitchy. VERY GLITCHY. Avoid at all costs, that one is a proper F. (granted the Megadrive version kinda is too... maybe F- for NES)

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Re: How Prince of Persia Defeated Apple II's Memory Limitations | War Stories | Ars Technica

Postby VideoGameCritic » July 13th, 2020, 9:09 pm

I'm revisiting the Sega CD version of this game. I don't think this game deserves an F. I think I just need to get a better handle on the controls.


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